You Get What You Pay For. Right?
We've all heard or used the cliche "You get what you pay for." However, it's not always true, especially in web design. I've currently been working with clients that are usually paying a lot more and getting less in return.
You've probably seen some of those cheap build-it-yourself, one-price per month, cookie-cutter websites, right? They make you do all the work, there's no real professional design help and you almost always don't get what you pay for. If fact sites and companies like those are more prone to attacks, slow server speeds, very little code or functionality customizations and you can feel alone trying to take care of your company website.
Then there's the flip side. Some of my more recently clients were using large marketing firms and agencies that would charge a small fortune to handle most of the company's ads, print, graphic design and web presence. Those ad agencies are going to like what I'm about to say, but I like you, so here it goes. Stay away from them. I've worked for them both in-house and contract over the years and you'll never get what you pay for or deserve. Everything's done half-assed and on very tight time restraints. A small team handles each client, but it's always about more money, never about the client or project. I've even seen firms contract out websites overseas and charge the client over 10,000% the cost of the website that isn't even using the most currently tools or even works on a mobile device! This happens a lot.
Okay, so I might have scared you. Or maybe you've used agency and have been fine, hopefully this is you. Either way I want to give you some tools that can both keep the design firm honest and help you sleep at night knowing your website specifically is doing good! Here's some "Good Advice" for FREE!
There's a lot of tools, hardware and software that will show you different details about your website. I like to keep it simple and easy to understand. Which is why I use: Pingdom Website Speed Test. Try it and see what score you get and the [age speed. Typically, your website should be a score of 75 or above (this is is 99, just shy of 100, due to a Google Analytics glitch). Your load time should also be at 3 seconds or less. This can vary for several reasons, so try different pages and test again. You can also look at other details on this page for a lot of other numbers, to help you and your web designer fix problems.
Facebook, Twitter and other sharing sites are are great tools to show off your new product, service or news about your organization. To make sure links on your site are setup right and look good, try seeing what pages look like in social media. For Facebook, visit their Developer Crawler and paste your website link in the field. It should show a nice title, a small description, a correctly sized image and a link back to your site. Try Twitter's Card Validator too and see if it works. It's not always perfect, but it's a start to troubleshoot links before your users see them.
Cache & CDN
No I didn't spell "Cash" wrong. Cache is a fast way for servers and web browsers to quickly server out the same static content to make your website load faster. This also goes along with a good CDN (Content Delivery Network). Let's say you sell a product internationally. A user in London has to wait for your web server in, lets say, Los Angles to load the data back-and-forth a lot of times. This speed can be very slow and you can lose customers. A CDN duplicates your website data in usually 3-6 servers in each major country making your website load fast no matter where your users are, this also helps keep your main web server load under control and faster. So get a CDN! It's worth it.
Malware & Website Security
Is your webserver safe and secure? Well, here's a free tool to check: Free Website Malware and Security Scanner by Sucuri. What to be double-sure!? Wow you're really concerned about the safety of your users! Good for you. This is a little more advanced, but you can download your whole site via FTP and do a manually scan with security software like ESET NOD32 and SpyBot to check all your files. I do this time-to-time and they've found issues. For my clients I use other server tools on top of these to check for issues and security daily. If you're my currently client, you're welcome :)
CMS & Updates
Most likely your website is on a CMS (Content Management System) like Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, etc. You can read more about what I think is the best CMS here. No matter who hosts or manages your website you should always have a super admin login for your security purposes and have the option to update your site if you choose too. It's also a good what to make sure all your plugins and extensions are up-to-date. Most of the time when you login, the system will tell you if updates are needed. It's always a good idea to be up-t0-date, but it's usually best to let your web designer know so they can troubleshoot any issues that could arise on an upgrade or update.
There's a lot of other tools, image compression plugins, security holes and tips to look out for, but they can get more advanced for the average user. I'll save that for another blog.
All that sounds great right? Well whether you already have a website or are thinking on getting a new one, make sure you are "getting what you pay for!" Oh and since this is my website, let me help you on your next project, all those bullet points above are automatically included in most of my Web Design Packages.